PODCAST: Michael Snyder – Documentary photographer and filmmaker

This week I’m speaking with Mike Snyder – a documentary photographer and filmmaker based in Charlottesville in the US. In his work, Mike explores the dynamic relationship between environmental and cultural change. An environmental and climate scientist by training, Mike uses his combined knowledge of visual storytelling and conservation to create narratives that drive social impact. Mike and I discuss topics such as how best to approach human stories in a way that maximises the positive impact – through having a considered, rigorous and impact-first approach to planning, implementation, and outputs. We also chat about how Mike goes about getting funding and his approach to pitching his stories, as well as his thoughts on how we can become better storytellers, and how to best prepare for shoots – whether photography and filmmaking. There’s so much to take away from our chat – both practical, actionable advice, and ideas to reflect on in relation to impact-driven visual storytelling. Photography and Filmmaking Portfolio | Instagram Podcast hosted and produced by ⁠Chris King

SUBJECTS & TIMECODES

Inspiration for picking up a camera [2:09] What is about climate change communication that has failed to inspire meaningful action and behaviour change [6:05] The multi-dimensional approach to climate change communication that includes both solutions and impacts [10:41] How to get stories in front of policymakers and inspire them to take action [12:07] How to explore a human story and having true impact on the issue being documented [15:58] An example of applying an impact-first approach to documentary storytelling that engages people at a local level – not just national and international [20:52] Adding layers of impact – particularly at a local level – when you’ve been commissioned by a magazine [23:52] What has been the inspiration for developing a comprehensive, impact-first approach to documentary storytelling [26:04] Organisations receptive and support of an impact-first approach [29:20] Approach to getting funding for impact-first storytelling [30:49] Approach to pitching new projects [33:32] How to become better documentary storytellers [35:30] How to start a start a new project and get the images or footage you want [39:47] Motivation for long-term project on drag queens in home town [43:52] How to address the power imbalance that exists when exploring a human story [47:17] How do we get more people to consider the role we as documentary storytellers play in maintaining or challenging a prevailing narrative [50:48] The need to compromise but also turning down commissions that aren’t a good fit for whatever reason [57:35] Mistakes that have been valuable[1:01:37] What could have been of real benefit if learnt sooner [1:02:55] Experiences exploring something academic but with a visual dimension [1:05:40] The choice to become a documentary storyteller instead of committing to being an environmental scientist being the right choice in terms of impact [1:07:33] Skills being developed and mastered [1:10:28] Active documentary storytellers who are source of inspiration [1:13:38]

NOTES

Bertha Climate Challenge Fellowship Bertha Foundation University of Art Bournemouth The CRUX Photography Network Columbia University Earth InstituteClimate Migration Conference Blue Earth Alliance Pixar’s Story Spine Ed Kashi Social Documentary Network